It’s a summer tradition in Port Alberni for residents to get their Rotary Club Salmon Festival tickets and a chance to win $10,000 cash. But the pandemic has cancelled the festival for the second year, and the club was looking for a new way to raise the funds they count on for bursaries and to support breakfast clubs in the community.
Other groups had not had much success with online raffles, and the Rotary Club of Port Alberni wanted a safe and viable way to sell tickets while still connecting to the community. This is a small club, currently 15 members.
During a community clean-up sponsored by the club in April, people were asking Rotarians about the raffle tickets when they drove up to drop their collected trash at the collection site in a mall parking lot … and an idea was born.
The Rotary Club of Port Alberni offered a “drive-thru” ticket booth in the same mall parking lot, using their bright yellow Rotary-branded event tent and sandwich signs to draw attention. Rotarians are there every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased from the vehicle, or buyers park and come to the table. Rotary accepts cash and credit cards (using the Square on phones). All Rotarians wear masks, use hand sanitizer and follow Covid-19 safety protocols. They did change the format of the raffle to a 50/50 draw, so they would be sure to cover the prize. Tickets were also available at the three businesses or from Rotarians directly.
To promote the booth and educate the public about where tickets were available, the Rotary Club set an advertising budget of $1,000 for newspaper print and digital ads as well as social media and radio promotion. The ads featured two well-known and recognizable Rotarians in the community.
The exposure led to Rotary being invited to set up at other community events, including a local street market Wednesday nights, a charity car cruise, and a classic car show and barbecue.
The community has come through, and with three weeks (and 7 more opportunities to sell) left until the draw on Labour Day, more than half of the 4,000 tickets were sold.
The Rotary Club of Port Alberni will meet their target and continue to provide the support to students in the community. There is renewed interest from potential members, and the club has a new “brand” for selling the tickets in the future.
Lessons learned: spend some money on advertising, be there (the booth was manned even during the heatwave), have Rotary info at the booth, and have fun with it (music, balloons, and lots of smiles!).